Oleander House, by Ally Blue

>> Friday, July 27, 2007

TITLE: Oleander House (for e-format: here)
AUTHOR: Ally Blue

PAGES: Print version has 228 pages
PUBLISHER: Samhain Publishing

SETTING: Contemporary Mississipi
TYPE: Gay paranormal romance
SERIES: First in Bay City Paranormal Investigations series.

REASON FOR READING: I've liked Ally Blue's books and I love good ghost stories, so this plot appealed to me.

Sam Raintree has never been quite normal. All his life, he’s experienced things he can’t explain. Things that have colored his view of the world and of himself. So taking a job as a paranormal investigator seems like a perfect fit. His new co-workers, he figures, don’t have to know that he’s gay.

From the moment Sam arrives at Oleander House, the site of his first assignment with Bay City Paranormal Investigations, nothing is what he expected. The repetitive yet exciting work, the unusual and violent history of the house, the intensely erotic and terrifying dreams which plague his sleep. But the most unexpected thing is Dr. Bo Broussard, the group’s leader. From the moment they meet, Sam is strongly attracted to his intelligent, alluring boss. It doesn’t take Sam long to figure out that although Bo has led a heterosexual life, he is very much in the closet, and wants Sam as badly as Sam wants him.

As the investigation of Oleander House progresses and paranormal events in the house escalate, Sam and Bo circle warily around their mutual attraction, until a single night of bloodshed and revelation changes their lives forever.
THE PLOT: Sam Raintree's new job as a tech with Bay City Paranormal investigations quickly becomes more eventful than he ever could have predicted. His very first job is BCPI's investigation of Oleander House, a stately old home with a history of mysterious and gruesome murders.

The crew moves in and from the very first, it's clear that something very strange is going on. The members of the team with psychic gifts (which turns out to include Sam, to his surprise) all sense something menacing and foreign, and their dreams are becoming more and more violent and upsetting.

And if all this weren't stressful enough for poor Sam, there's also his complicated developing relationship with his boss, Dr. Bo Broussard. It's obvious from the first that Bo is majorly attracted to Sam, but the man is married and insists he's not gay. So what are all those mixed signals he's sending Sam all about?

MY THOUGHTS: Oleander House brought me out of my post-Deathly Hallows blues. I'd been listlessly picking up and discarding books ever since I'd finished it, right until I started OH. I ended up staying up late to finish it that same evening. It's not a perfect book, but both the paranormal aspects and the romance are tremendously absorbing.

It's hard to say which of these aspects I enjoyed the most, because I really liked the balance Blue struck between them. The increasing horror (and I do mean horror) of the BCPI team's experiences in the house only helped ratchet up the tension between Bo and Sam.

I loved the mystery of the house and enjoyed following the investigators doing their thing, even though much of what they did sounded incredibly boring, the poor things. I mean, all that watching of the videos taken by the cameras they'd set up in the house? I'd die of boredom after an hour. But I appreciated the touch of reality.

As for the romance, it had me at the edge of my seat waiting to see what would happen. Oh, the lovely, lovely tension! I wanted to smack Bo a couple of times for the torture he put Sam through, but I couldn't help but sympathise at the same time. But man, the guy was so totally in denial! And just a warning for those who've become used to "gay romance" being more like "gay erotica": this one is not. There's plenty of sexual tension (and I'd even characterize the book as hot), but there's little actual sexual content. That's left for the sequel.

And that brings me to the ending, which was on the open-ended side. Well, only slightly open-ended in the plot, pretty open-ended in the romance.

The BCPI team does discover the basics of what's going on in the house and they do manage to resolve the "haunting", but it's clear that there's a lot left for them to find out in the future. I'm afraid the climactic scene in this respect was not completely successful, mainly because the reality wasn't as scary as the previous suggestions, which were very chilling. But still, it was interesting and original.

The romance had much less resolution. It does end in a hopeful note, but it's also clear that there's still much to be resolved between Bo and Sam, especially because Bo is still pretty uncomfortable with his sexuality. I didn't mind too much because the following book, What Hides Inside is already available, but if it hadn't, I might have been pissed.

MY GRADE: A strong B.


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